London

Many local businesses relieved to re-open their doors to Londoners once again

Local businesses re-opened their doors to Londoners on Tuesday after a provincewide shutdown in effect since Boxing Day.

The London region is under the province's red zone, limiting customers in stores and eateries

Local businesses re-opened their doors to Londoners on Tuesday after a provincewide shutdown in effect since Boxing Day. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

Local businesses re-opened their doors to Londoners on Tuesday after a provincewide shutdown in effect since Boxing Day.

While many restrictions are still in place, retail businesses, restaurants and personal care services such as hair and nail salons are now able to open their doors but to limited customers under the Red-Control zone of the COVID-19 Response Framework. 

Ivan Santana-Barnes said he was counting down the days to reopen Ivanopoblano, a Mexican eatery at 390 Wharncliffe Road that he co-owns with his husband.

"I didn't even sleep [Monday] night, i was just so excited to have some life in the restaurant again. I was just like it felt like a It was my first day of opening," Santana-Barnes said.

Ivanopoblano first opened in November 2019, just four months prior to the Ontario government ordering businesses shut due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While the restaurant remained open for curbside pickup and delivery during the shutdown, Santana-Barnes said the closure of indoor dining had taken a big bite out of the restaurant's revenue.

Able to seat 26 people indoors, with the current restrictions, the eatery can only allow 10 patrons with a maximum of four people per table. 

Ivan Santana-Barnes said he was counting down the days to reopen Ivanopoblano, a Mexican eatery at 390 Wharncliffe Road that he co-owns with his husband Christopher. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

Peter Channer, owner of Channer's Men's and Ladies Apparel, said he is relieved to finally be able to greet customers into his store once again. 

"It's a relief to be able to get open," Channer said. 

While retail stores can only operate at a 50 per cent capacity under current restrictions, Channer said it luckily doesn't present a major issue for his operation. 

The higher-end apparel store was launched in 1997 and had originally started as a menswear company, later expanding to include women's apparel. 

Like other retail stores in the region, Channer's had to shift to curbside pickup and deliveries during the shutdown to keep things afloat and continue serving its regular clients.

Londoners eager to get a haircut

Lamees Ammoury, salon owner of The Cut Above in Masonville Mall, says she walked into her salon on Tuesday with had 22 voicemails from eager clients wanting to book an appointment.

"Everybody's so excited," said Ammoury. "They're excited when I call them back. If they see the caller ID, you can hear the excitement in their voice when they say hello."

Under the Red-control zone, people must provide their name and contact information at personal care service businesses. Services that require someone to remove their mask are not allowed.

Ammoury said clients have been telling her "I really need this," "Thank god it's winter," "I can't go out anymore."

"A lot of the funny ones are men when they call and say 'yeah my wife or my girlfriend has been cutting my hair and she's so happy that you guys are open, she doesn't want to do it anymore." 

"The love that you feel through the phone like you can almost touch it, everybody's so happy that you're answering."

Ammoury said she has received an outpouring of support for her hair salon from the community to get through the shut-down.

"One response that really catches me off-guard and makes me feel so good is 'I'm so glad you're still in business, 'I've been rooting for you, I've been thinking of you.'" 

One business owner holding back on re-opening

Tegest Haila, owner of Addis Ababa Restaurant in London, says she won't be opening her restaurant for indoor dining anytime soon.

Haila's restaurant serves Ethiopian cuisine at 465 Dundas Street and seats up to 45 people, but with red-level restrictions capping patrons to just 10 at a time, she says it just won't be viable for her business. 

When London previously entered into the red zone on Dec. 14, Haila said the restaurant would not see more than two patrons wanting to dine in, in a day. 

Tegest Haila, owner of London's Addis Ababa Ethiopian Restaurant, says she's holding back on re-opening her restaurant for indoor dining until she can find a more viable way of doing it, under the Red zone restrictions. (Kylene Walker)

"I don't think even that you know, the Londoners are ready to go out into dining and stuff like that ... it seems like it's a little too early," Haila said.

The longtime restaurant is coming on its 18th year in business May 1, Haila said.

Had it not been for government aid during the pandemic, "I wouldn't be here," she said.

With files from Sara Jabakhanji, Allison Devereaux

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